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Ireland Should Move Towards Achieving Health-Based WHO Air Quality Guidelines.

  • Air quality in Ireland is generally good, however, there are concerning localised issues that are impacting negatively on the air we breathe.
  • Ireland met all of its EU legal requirements in 2021, but it did not meet the new health-based WHO guidelines.
  • Ireland and Europe should move towards achieving the health-based WHO air quality guidelines.
  • It is estimated that there are approximately 1,300 premature deaths annually in Ireland due to poor air quality from fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
  • The choices we make in how we heat our homes and how we travel directly impacts the quality of the air we breathe.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today launched its annual air quality report ‘Air Quality in Ireland 2021’.

The report shows that, while air quality in Ireland is generally good and compares favourably with many of our European neighbours, there are concerning localised issues, which lead to poor air quality.

While Ireland met EU legal air quality limits in 2021, it did not meet the health-based World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines for a number of pollutants including: particulate matter (PM), nitrogen Dioxide (N02), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone (O3), due to the burning of solid fuel in our towns and villages and traffic in our cities.

Poor air quality has a negative impact on people’s health and there are an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to particulate matter in our air. Air monitoring results in 2021 from EPA stations across Ireland show that fine particulate matter (PM2.5), mainly from burning solid fuel in our homes, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) mainly from road traffic, remain the main threats to good air quality.

Launching the report, Air Quality in Ireland 2021, Dr Micheál Lehane, Director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said, “The EPA’s air quality monitoring carried out in 2021 has shown that Ireland met all of its EU legal requirements in 2021. However, we would not have met the new WHO air quality guidelines for health. Meeting the new WHO guidelines for air quality will be a major challenge for the country, however the report identifies a number of solutions to move towards these guideline levels”.

In the report the EPA states that:

  • Ireland and Europe should move towards achieving the health-based WHO air quality guidelines.
  • The planned National Clean Air Strategy for Ireland needs to be published and fully implemented.
  • Local Authorities must provide more resources to increase air enforcement activities.
  • National investment in clean public transport is needed across the country.

Mr Pat Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said, “Air quality in Ireland is generally good, however, there are localised issues that are impacting negatively on air quality and our health. In our towns and villages monitoring identifies high levels of particulate matter associated with burning solid fuels and in our larger cities high levels of nitrogen dioxide is associated with road traffic. There are options and solutions to help improve the air we breathe. Changes we make to how we heat our homes and finding alternative ways to travel can immediately impact our local air quality”.

The EPA’s Air Quality in Ireland 2021 report is now available HERE on the EPA website.

The EPA continually monitors air quality across Ireland and provides the air quality index for health and real-time results online HERE.
Results are updated hourly on the website, and people can log on at any time to check whether the current air quality is good, fair or poor.
You can also find out how to improve air quality from the EPA’s “How we can improve the air we breathe infographic” or check out the ‘ABC for Cleaner Air’ campaign from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, which highlights some simple steps we can all make and help reduce pollution from solid fuels.

Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office: Tel: 053-91 70770 (24 hours) and media@epa.ie

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